Memorizing Poems

This week, Creative Writing class has been hard at work preparing their performances of their chosen poems for Poetry Out Loud’s school competition. This is the first year my school has entered the competition so it has been an exciting learning experience for all of us. Poetry Out Loud is a national organization, and it is certainly serving as an effective way to introduce poetry to my students. Students are memorizing and performing poems by Nikki Giovanni, Rebecca Hazelton, Edgar Allan Poe, Eve Ewing, Paul Dunbar–poets spanning from the 17th century to current day.

We spent the week closely reading the poems, learning them line by line, word by word. We looked at just the vowels. Then just the consonants. We found patterns in the sounds of the poem. We picked out words to emphasize in each line. We navigated the how and why of the poem. We got to know our poem. Continue reading

Expanding definitions of poetry

Day 1’s lesson was a discussion on students’ initial definitions of poetry, using a Play-doh and FlipGrid mash up (see my previous post)

Today, I wanted them to reflect on, add on to, and hopefully gain some new perceptions of what poetry is and what it can accomplish.

Over the course of two 50-minute class periods, I showed them a Playlist of Poems. Some are personal favorites, and all will be used in some way later in the semester as part of a poetry prompt.

The directions were: Continue reading

What is poetry?

Today, I start my adventures in teaching Creative Writing. And blogging. Basically, blogging about teaching Creative Writing, neither of which I have done before. I requested to teach Creative Writing last year as I started to immerse myself in contemporary poetry. Now willfully drowning, I am grateful to my school for granting my request. I don’t know my students yet–I get to meet them later today–but I do know that I want them all to love poetry. Reading it, writing it, swimming in it.

As the creator of the #TeachLivingPoets hashtag on Twitter, my focus for class will be exactly that–teaching poems by LIVING poets. On the list so far are poems by: Kaveh Akbar, RA Villanueva, Safia Elhillo, Melissa Range, Joshua Bennett, Cathy Park Hong, Eve Ewing, Maggie Smith, Mahtem Shiferraw, Ross Gay, Savon Bartley, Tracy K. Smith, and Gabrielle Calvocoressi.

My first day lesson is called What is Poetry? Materials needed are Play-doh, colorful paper, markers, internet connection and devices for using FlipGrid. The directions are as follows:

To begin our poetry adventures together, I would like for you to consider your personal definition of poetry.

  1. With a partner, brainstorm a list of different ways you define poetry
  2. Create a Play-doh sculpture that physically illustrates your perception of poetry
  3. Set your sculpture on a sheet of colored paper. Write individual words and phrases around the paper that sum up your definition
  4. Using FlipGrid, record a 90-second video explanation of:
    1. Your definition
    2. How your sculpture encapsulates your definition
    3. Explain the words around your paper

….fast-forward 3 hours….

Even as a teacher of 13 years, I still get just a little nervous for the first day of class, and today was no exception. My excitement far outweighs any jitters though, as I get to devote a whole class everyday to something I really love. I expect to have a lot of fun with this class.

Students played through creation and considered their definitions of poetry. Common words were emotionscreative, expressionmusical, and personal. 

I would consider our first day together a success. My goal is to blog once a week, or when I feel like I have something worth sharing.  Any ideas, lessons, and advice are welcome!  🙂

Follow me on Twitter! @MelAlterSmith